An Iconic B-Boy

Ken Swift, internationally acclaimed breaker, to serve as visiting assistant professor at UC Riverside

Ken Swift Photo courtesy of: Rob Northway

RIVERSIDE, Calif. ( – The University of California, Riverside’s dance department welcomes Ken Swift as a visiting assistant professor for the 2016 spring quarter. Swift is an internationally acclaimed American practitioner of the original hip hop street dance form of breaking, popularly known as b-boying or breakdancing. He has also been named one of the most iconic dancers of the 20th century by CNN.

“It is incredibly exciting to have a street dancer of Swift’s expertise and international reputation here, teaching the fundamentals and history of his craft,” said Imani Kai Johnson, assistant professor of critical dance studies. “By being at UCR, he demonstrates the legitimacy of street dances as distinct techniques that have a legitimate place in the curriculum of dance departments.”

Swift has been described by his peers as the epitome of the b-boy, and a pioneer in hip hop dance. In the 1980s and ‘90s he helped introduce hip hop to the general public, and helped bring hip hop dance to the theater stage. In his over 35 years of practicing dance, he has received a Bessie Award for Choreography (as a member of the group Rhythm Technicians and the Rock Steady Crew), the Hip Hop Pioneer Award at the Sadler’s Wells Breaking Convention event, and the Louis Reyes Rivera Lifetime Achievement Award from Amherst College.

He has also been featured in films that marked the beginning of hip hop’s introduction to the mainstream, specifically “Wild Style” (1983), “Flashdance” (1983), and “Beat Street” (1984), and he has appeared in documentaries over the years, including “Style Wars” (1983), “The Freshest Kids” (2002), and “Planet B-Boy” (2007).

Photo credit: Rob Northway

Photo credit: Rob Northway

Swift’s talent and influence have been so impactful in the hip hop world that in 2011, CNN not only named him “the second most iconic dancer of the 20th century,” ahead of such names as modern dancer Judith Jamison and ballet dancer Mikhail Baryshnikov, but also said, “Swift is credited with establishing hip hop as a legitimate dance movement and creating many of its classic moves.”

UC Riverside’s opportunity to hire Swift as a visiting professor came as a result of his involvement in Johnson’s “Show & Prove” Hip Hop Studies conference, which will be held on campus Friday, April 8, to Sunday, April 10.

“The dance faculty jumped at the chance to invite Swift to work with our undergraduate and graduate students over the 10 weeks of spring quarter,” explained Anthea Kraut, the chair of the dance department. “We see Swift’s hiring as  in keeping with our ongoing efforts to legitimize multiple forms of dance as sites of knowledge and inquiry. In conjunction with the conference, Swift’s presence on campus helps position UCR as a major player in the burgeoning field of Hip Hop Studies.”

He continues to teach the foundations of breaking and freestyle rocking to dancers worldwide. At UC Riverside he will teach two courses. One is an undergraduate course, titled “Dance Cultures, Culture in Dance: Breaking Fundamentals.” The other is a graduate course titled, “Special Topics in Dance Making: From the Rock to the Break: Rocking and Breaking Styles from NYC in the 1970s.”

“Swift embodies a generation whose efforts sparked a global culture that represented their voices to the world for the first time. That is what I hope UCR students will learn from his presence,” said Johnson.

Media Contact

Tel: (951) 827-5893
Twitter: mojgansherkat

Additional Contacts

Imani Kai Johnson
Tel: (951) 827-5626

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